Axl turned 51 a few days ago and I decided we should mark this event by having a party. Since Axl once was quoted as saying "I'm not God, but if I were, three quarters of you would be girls and the rest would be pizza and beer" I thought a pizza party would be the best way to have a casual get together AND do a little instructional video as well. My expectations were that a handful of our friends would drop by, we'd make a few pizzas and have a low key get together over a few beers. By the Wednesday before the party we had 25 people respond they would be coming, three who would need a place to sleep and one who actually cancelled a prior engagement in order to attend. Clearly, I underestimated the power of free beer. My friend Kristy, who owns Cucina Tagliani, an Italian food restaurant, offered to bring her dough processor and help me make the pizza dough beforehand. Everyone else was asked to bring side dishes and toppings for the pizzas. Paul had a custom stone made for our barbeque and I presented him with a wooden pizza peel as a gift (might as well give a gift to my actual husband since Axl wasn't going to be there!)
Kristy arrived early and we set about making 30 individual balls of dough. The recipe I was using should have worked, it was from one of my most reliable cookbooks, but even after a test run the night before and another full batch the day of, it was clear that the quantities of water to flour were off. I was optomistic that our first batch would eventually 'rise' to the occasion but Kristy was convinced we'd have to throw it out. In the end, we were both right. The first batch rose up fine, but remained stifff and unyeilding when we tried to stretch it into a pie. We made five batches of dough altogether.
For the toppings I made a quantity of pizza sauce (recipe can be found on the next post) and left the rest up to our guests to supply. The variety of meats and vegetables was impressive and we ended up with pepperoni, grilled and sliced italian sausages, mozzarella cheese, goat cheese, assorted pepper rings, onions, fresh tomatoes, sliced black olives, halved kalmata olives and some anchovies which were a hit with those who like them. By the end of the evening there was not a scrap of dough left, the topping platters looked as if they had been trampled and everyone had a great time 'making' pizza. Surprisingly, few of the guests brought any side dishes. We had one garden salad and two trays of hot wings plus a few random desserts. (Including a dozen meticulously decorated cupcakes that started out as two dozen right before I had to stop short before hitting a stray dog.) The pizzas were really the star of the show. And Axl, of course. You can see the video of just us wishing him birthday greetings here: http://www.cookingforaxl.com/?p=497
4 cups all purpose flour
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 cups water, heated to 110 degrees
Pulse the flour, yest and salt in a food processor for 3 or 4 pulses. Add the olive oil and slowly add 1 and 1/2 cups of the water. Pulse until the water is incorporated and the dough begins to cling together. Add more water if needed, one tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the processor and knead until smooth. If the dough is very tough or breaks apart, put it back in the processor and a bit more water until it is soft and pliable. Work the dough until is becomes a smooth, elastic ball. Separate into 5 or 6 balls or leave whole (for one large pizza.) Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at least one hour.
Using a pizza peel or an unrimmed baking sheet, sprinkle some corn meal over the surface and begin stretching your dough to the desired size and thickness. Brush olive oil over the surface of the dough to the edge and top as desired, making sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of uncovered dough around the edge. Place on a pizza stone that has been set on the grill (we raised ours up about an inch above the grate) that has been heated to 500 degrees. The pizza will only need about 10 minutes to cook.